Microsoft has announced personal computer users who upgrade to Windows 10 in the first year of its release will get the next generation of desktop and mobile operating system for free.
Microsoft, which has dominated the desktop computing market for nearly three decades with various versions of Windows, is moving to a new model which sees the same version rolled out across desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones when it arrives around September. While there is a free technical preview of the unfinished operating system out now for anyone with the technical knowhow to install it, the full version of Windows 10 would be delivered as a service free to users running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 in the first year.
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said: "Windows 10 marks the beginning of the more personal computing era in the mobile-first, cloud-first world. Our ambition is for the 1.5 billion people who are using Windows today to fall in love with Windows 10 and for billions more to decide to make Windows home."
The new generation of Windows had been designed with a wide range of computing experiences in mind ranging from computers with large screens to devices with no screens.
The new version of the operating system includes Microsoft's voice activated Cortana personal digital assistant which arrived on Windows Phone devices in some countries last year. Cortana is an artificial intelligence, much like the androids and computers of science fiction, which learns your preferences as you use it. Recommendations, information and reminders are just some of its functionality. It's unclear if and when New Zealand will be included in the Windows 10 roll out for Cortana since it is not yet available on Windows Phones configured for New Zealand.
The new operating systems ships with Microsoft's new internet browser code named "Project Spartan". It's unclear whether the new browser will ship alongside Internet Explorer, currently available in version 11, or replace it. But the new browser looks and feels as if it was designed for touch screen devices thanks to its minimalist user interface and it integrates with Cortana. In a first for Microsoft, the new browser will include support for plug-in code, meaning software developers will be able to add functionality to it.
Microsoft also introduced continuum mode. On 2-in-1 devices, such as laptops that convert to separate touchscreen tablets, Windows 10 will be designed to move easily between the traditional keyboard and mouse controls and the newer touch approach. It detects the transition and conveniently switches to the new mode.
Microsoft is also working up a new "touch first" version of Office to work with Windows 10. It is currently in development and will includes new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook redesigned from the ground up.
Gamers will rejoice that Windows 10 will ship with a new Xbox app which will convert their Windows 10 personal computer into an Xbox One. With the app gamers will be able to access the gaming network on their computer as well as the Xbox One.
To read about other new features in Windows 10 read tomorrow's article.